LIFESTYLE

The tallest building in Latin America sits empty due to traffic concerns

Looking to rent office space in the Chilean capital of Santiago?

Here's a hint: Find the tallest building in town – actually in all of Latin America – locate the floor you want and there's a pretty good chance that it's free for you to move on in.

That's because the 64-floor, 984 foot-high Gran Torre Santiago sits basically empty as it towers over the city's skyline. (Yes, the country that brought the world famed wordsmiths Pablo Neruda and Roberto Bolaño can't think of a more creative name than the Great Santiago Tower.)

The one catch: You'll probably have to wait a while before moving in.

While the $1 billion tower has been plagued from the start of its construction in 2006 due to economic recessions, business disputes and squabbles with the local government, the main issue keeping tenants out the building is a lack of permits, which city authorities refuse to give the building until it makes needed traffic improvements to the surrounding area.

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So far, Bayer pharmaceuticals is the only company leasing space.

"It isn't unusual for developers to lock horns with government officials over the impact of real estate projects on such things as traffic and pollution," the Wall Street Journal reported. "What is unusual is to wait to thrash out such issues on a high-profile project until it is completed and soaring above the city like a neon white elephant."

The upgrades necessary to obtain these permits are expected to take a year to complete and to cost around $60 million.

The disputes over traffic improvements go back to 2014, when local officials claimed that Cencosud, the construction firm in charge of building the tower, never obtained the proper permits in the first place and neglected to take into account the traffic issues the project would create in the Providencia neighborhood where the building is located.

Despite the arguments, the project continued in a piecemeal fashion, with a shopping mall opening inside first, followed by the observation deck atop the tower opening in August.

There is also complaints that the complex's 5,695 parking spaces will discourage people from taking advantage of connections to the nearby metro line.

"We need a stronger commitment to public space, and a respect for the surrounding area," Nicolás Muñoz, a council member for Providencia said, according to Citymetric. "The Costanera Center sucks the juice out of every last square inch of space, with little concern for a vision of shared urban areas."

Given Chile's current slumping economy and the continuing fights with local officials, it could be another decade before the building is completely occupied.

In that time Chile could lose its claim on the tallest building in Latin America to their neighbors across the Andes.

Argentina announced last September that it will begin construction on a 1,165-foot tower, which is expected to cost around $300 million and will serve as a center for the entertainment industry, including television and movies studios.

Architectural plans depict it as being in the shape of Argentina's map while an outdoor stadium for 15,000 people at ground level is shaped like the map of the Falkland Islands. The British territory in the South Atlantic is claimed by Argentina, which calls it Las Malvinas.

President Cristina Fernández says the building, which will be lit in the sky-blue and white colors of the national flag, is to be constructed on state lands with private funding. It will be located on Demarchi Island in southern Buenos Aires, overlooking the River Plate.

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